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December 18, 2013

KITCHELL: Will GOP become state's 'tea-totaler' party?

Among the many issues Hoosiers have bandied about over the years is one many Republicans have been passionate about — drunken driving.

I don’t know that advocates of tougher guidelines for drunken driving prevention had a better advocate than Tom Wyss, a Fort Wayne legislator who tirelessly advocated the more stringent guidelines of .08 blood/alcohol level for the legal definition of driving under the influence. For years, it was stuck at .10, but as we all came to know, a fatal victim in a drunken-driving accident is just as much a victim if the driver is .10 or .08. The message Wyss sent was clear — “Think before you drink and the less, the better.”

Another advocate was former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith. He once led a Hoosiers Against Drunken Driving conference at Ball State where students from all over the state rallied to support efforts against drunken driving.

Unfortunately, some issues have an interesting way of reappearing in other legislation. The drunken-driving issue could be raised again in the 2014 session because of a movement afoot to eliminate Indiana’s ban on Sunday liquor sales. Yes, we can gamble at race tracks and casinos on Sundays. Yes, we can buy lottery tickets on Sunday. Yes, we can buy wine in restaurants on Sundays. So why can’t we purchase liquor?

There are legitimate reasons for retailers to argue that liquor represents a huge portion of their overall sales and Sunday is a weekend day when consumers are more likely to be shopping than weekdays. Point made.

When the argument is framed from strictly a retail perspective, many legislators would probably have no problem with the logic.

But when it’s framed in the spirit of limiting access to alcohol during the weekend when Hoosiers have more free time and will be more apt to be consuming alcohol — and abusing it — then the discussion takes on a much different tone. Weekends are times when families spend the most time together. Those also are the times when the youngest drivers are on the road more, traveling to games and competitions, to shopping malls, to dates and to church. Why pollute the roadways with potentially more drunken drivers than we have already and threaten these drivers?

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